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Dental school’s first forensic odontologist leads diagnostic sciences department

Dr. Steven B. Whitaker serves as interim chair of diagnostic sciences department

Dr. Steven B. Whitaker is an interim chair with the dental school.MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Steven B. Whitaker, DDS, is the interim chair of the Department of Diagnostic Sciences in the West Virginia University School of Dentistry. Having completed an oral and maxillofacial pathology residency program at the Emory University School of Medicine in 1992, he more recently concluded a forensic odontology fellowship at the University of Tennessee Medical Center. He is also a specialist in endodontics, having matriculated through a residency at Dental College of Georgia in 1998.

In addition to being active with the American Academies of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology and Radiology, Dr. Whitaker is a diplomate of the American Board of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology and specialist member of the American Association of Endodontists. He has been involved on both the local and national levels of the American Dental Association where he has served on the Council of Scientific Affairs.

The dental school is pleased to welcome Dr. Whitaker’s return after serving on the faculty in 1992 and 1993. As a clinician, educator and public servant, he carries some unique perspectives on the healthcare professions and how oral health is addressed.

“The School of Dentistry is particularly fortunate to have a clinician and educator with Dr. Whitaker’s extensive knowledge and experience join our faculty,” said Dr. Anthony “Tom” Borgia. “He brings new expertise to not only those that are patients of the school, but also to many in the hospital and medical clinics with conditions that require multiple treatment modalities to ensure that they are receiving optimum and fully integrated health care. His presence is a large part of bridging medicine and dentistry with mutual benefits to both.”

Dr. Whitaker has served on the faculties of both the Medical College of Georgia and three schools in the University of Arkansas system. He is also the previous director of the Arkansas Department of Health’s Office of Oral Health.

As a clinician, educator and public servant, he carries some unique perspectives on the healthcare professions and how oral health is addressed.

Q&A with Dr. Whitaker

Q: What is the biggest difference between being here 25 years ago and being here now as an interim chair?

A: Morgantown has undergone dramatic changes! What seemed like a sleepy town with a McDonalds and a few mom and pop stores, now has Suncrest Town Center, University Town Center and much more development along the river. One thing that has not changed however is the people. They continue to make WVU one awesome place to work and play. The camaraderie shown by the faculty, staff and students is second to none. It is extremely rewarding to serve alongside professionals who truly care about their patients. Love of the university and the state of West Virginia is of course ever-present.

Q: What do you hope you and your department can achieve?

A: Our department is blessed with incredible talent. All of our faculty are board certified and have or will have completed fellowships above and beyond their primary specialties.

Oral and maxillofacial pathologists, Dr. Hiba Qari (Baylor) and Dr. Jerry Bouquot (Mayo Clinic) have won multiple “Teacher of the Year Awards” and have our biopsy service making great strides. While concentrating on the needs of the citizens and clinicians of West Virginia, the department sees cases from multiple states and several foreign countries.

In addition to the biopsy service, Dean Borgia has made a concerted effort to build and enhance relationships with the larger Health Science Center community. As dentists, we have so much to offer but often fly under the radar. There are so many areas where we can contribute to help improve patient outcomes and quality of life. These include conditions that occur secondary to cancer treatment such as significant dry mouth issues and severe oral ulcerations.

Dr. Juan Bugueno is our newest faculty member and completed a residency in oral medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. He is available to see patients with numerous oral conditions both in the dental clinics and on the hospital floor.

The department also provides imaging services to include Cone Beam CT Scans and operates the school’s Urgent Care Clinic where thousands of patients, often in pain, are seen on a yearly basis.

Q: What do you hope to pass on to students?

A: In addition to providing the best in oral health care, our students receive an outstanding education thanks to the support of Dean Borgia and the rest of the faculty and staff. Our hope is that upon graduation, they are ready to make informed diagnoses and treat their patients based on firm scientific and evidence-based principles, clinical experience and a compassionate outlook on life.

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